News & Events

Berkshire Medical Center Nurses Picket Hospital

Nurses Protecting Quality Health Care in Western Massachusetts
Hospital Protecting $30 Million in Profits

PITTSFIELD, Mass.—The Registered Nurses at the Berkshire Medical Center picketed the hospital today. The nurses, who are part of the 550 member Massachusetts Nurses Association bargaining unit at the hospital, took to the sidewalks in front of the hospital with a clear message, “We are protecting quality health care in Western Massachusetts.” According to Unit Chair, Alexandra Neary, RN, management left them little choice, “We are faced with a very serious situation here. If we don’t get the financial improvements we are looking for it will be increasingly difficult for the hospital to retain and recruit experienced nurses. It is especially frustrating to us that while the hospital has shown a profit of over $30 million in the past 15 months they continue to tell us they can’t afford to put forward a decent financial package. We know they have the resources and it is our hope that BMC will funnel some of their profits into retention and recruitment of RNs, in order to continue to provide and maintain quality care to patients and their families within our community.”

The nurses have been in contract negotiation since April. One of the primary goals of the nurses has been to gain increases in their retirement benefits that will allow the nurses to retire with dignity. They are proposing that the hospital set up a Retiree Health Insurance benefit that would bridge the coverage gap for nurses who retire at 62 but do not qualify for Medicare until 65. In addition the RNs want to expand the hospital’s contribution to the Defined Contribution Plan. “Many of us have spent our entire professional careers caring for the patients of Pittsfield and western Massachusetts,” said Neary. “It seems inconceivable to us that these dedicated nurses would not be able to retire because of the lack of health insurance coverage.”

According to Vice Chair Gerri Jakacky, RN, another important issue to the nurses is that the hospital is seeking to divide the RNs through contract language, “They want the right to change a RN’s schedule by two hours, either earlier or later, without access to Reduction in Force rights for RNs. Management seems to think we have no other lives or responsibilities.” They also want to remove the Nurse Practitioner from the bargaining unit. “Many of these dedicated nurses have been in the unit since the union started and so far management has offered no good reason for their removal”, said Jakacky.

“The bottom line here is that we are committed to protecting the high quality of care at Berkshire Medical Center. Our patients and our community have become accustomed to this and we will do everything in our power to guarantee this quality of care, the people of western Massachusetts deserve nothing less,” said Neary.